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Spiritual Adaptation
aka: Spiritual Licensee

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"It's a shame that there was never a good Alien game on the NES... Oh wait, actually I take it back! There were some good Alien games on the NES! They're called Contra and Metroid! Yeah."

While a Spiritual Successor is for any plot that is reused without the same setting/characters, a Spiritual Adaptation is when the plot is used in a different medium. This often occurs because the creators in the new medium are not the same creators/producers of the original medium, which means they don't have access to the intellectual property rights of the original storyline.


It's particularly evident with video games; most people have certain movie characters with tons of potential they dream of playing as in an amazing game, yet as most movie licensed games are terrible, there's little chance of that happening. The storyline may deal with the same themes or problems faced by a very similar cast of characters, but without getting the licence, the creators have put together an original work instead. Fans check out the new work, and recognize story elements from a work in a different medium.

Sub-Trope to Spiritual Successor, where any work that shares the same themes/creators is written in a new setting.



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    Asian Animation 

    Comic Books 

  • Simon R. Green's Deathstalker series will be immediately familiar and fun territory to any Warhammer 40,000 player.
  • The Nina Wilde series by Andy McDermott, about a semi-reluctant Adventurer Archaeologist, obviously takes more than a few cues from (and frequently references) Indiana Jones and Lara Croft. However, the number of pitched gun battles in exotic locations and rare vehicles which inevitably explode makes it far more akin to the written form of Uncharted.
  • The Hunger Games:
    • It's been called an American take on Battle Royale, and for a long time, it was thought that the (then in production) film adaptation would be the closest thing that Americans had to even seeing a legal release of the Battle Royale movie.note  This is actually the root of the Fandom Rivalry between the two works, with fans of Battle Royale accusing The Hunger Games of being a ripoff and Hunger Games fans countering that both books draw from similar influences. And on that note...
    • It's also been called "The Running Man with teenagers." Both works are set in a dystopian future revolving a televised fight to the death that's used to oppress the populace, the intent of both authors being to satirize contemporary television (game shows in The Running Man, Reality TV in The Hunger Games), politics, and pop culture.
  • The best Dungeons & Dragons novel is, without a doubt, The Deed of Paksenarrion.
  • Inheritance Cycle is basically a medieval fantasy adaptation of Star Wars.
  • The improbable death scenes of Another make it awfully like a Japanese Final Destination.
  • In a rather broad sense, Mogworld is a pretty good novelization of Star Ocean: Till the End of Time.
  • The Tripods is widely viewed as an unofficial adaptation of H. G. Wells's The War of the Worlds showing what would happen if the Martians had successfully conquered Earth. The series features aliens who are larger than humans and feature completely different anatomy traveling great distances in massive three-legged machines just like Wells's Martians, and building their cities atop the ruins of human cities and using the remaining humans as a food/labor source, just as Wells's characters had speculated would happen were the invasion to succeed. Amusingly, the Martians die from breathing the Earth's air, while the aliens of The Tripods go to great lengths to keep themselves in air-tight pockets of their own atmosphere.
  • Solea Razvan's A Symphony of Eternity series is basically a mash between Discworld and Flashman set in a universe aching to Legend of Galactic Heroes only where magic instead of technology is used in this epic Galactic War.
  • The Girl With All the Gifts may as well be the novelization of The Last of Us, only with the setting transplanted to England. Both are stories about a Zombie Apocalypse caused by a fungus in the cordyceps genus jumping to humans, in which a young girl who is immune to the fungus and lives in a symbiotic relationship with it is being transported across a post-apocalyptic wasteland filled with zombies and human bandits to a safe zone where scientists will likely slice her brain open to study her immunity. Two of Melanie's protectors in The Girl With All the Gifts, Miss Justineau and Sergeant Parks, each correspond to different aspects of the protagonist Joel's personality in The Last of Us, with Justineau being the loving, adoptive parental figure and Parks being the badass killer who develops a grudging respect for Melanie. And both end with the protagonist destroying humanity's hope for a cure for the infection, while implying that the search for a cure was a lost cause to start with.
  • The first book of Bravelands is this to The Lion King. Both include a young male lion cub being driven out of his pride (and leaving behind a close female cub) after his father is murdered by another male. The cub is saved by prey animals and is adopted by them, before he eventually ventures off on his own.
  • Stephen King's It can easily be read as a literary adaptation of A Nightmare on Elm Street, albeit on a slightly more epic scale, with both IT (in the form of Pennywise) and Freddy Krueger being quick-witted, Faux Affably Evil monsters that prey on children by using supernatural powers to exploit their worst fears. IT's stomping grounds of choice are the sewers beneath the town of Derry, not unlike how Freddy's go-to dreamscape is an underground boiler room reminiscent of where he killed children in life. The 1994 film Wes Craven's New Nightmare takes the influence full-circle by having Freddy turn out to be an ancient demonic entity that latched onto the Nightmare series and took the form of its iconic villain, reminiscent of how IT is something more akin to an Eldritch Abomination. Andrés Muschietti even considered having IT take the form of Freddy at one point in the 2017 adaptation of It (both that film and the Nightmare series were made by New Line Cinema), though he decided that it would be too distracting.
  • Judy Blume's Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing can be viewed as a loose Gender Flip of Beverly Cleary's Beezus and Ramona. Both books are episodic Slices of Life about an average 9-year-old protagonist dealing with the crazy antics of their Annoying Younger Sibling, whom they describe as their "biggest problem." Both books also spawned a series of sequels named after the younger sibling, although the Fudge books keep big brother Peter as the protagonist, whereas the later Ramona books switch the viewpoint from Beezus's to Ramona's.

  • Egon Bondy's Happy Hearts Club Banned by The '80s Czech band Plastic People of the Universe was characterized in Progressive Rock magazine Eurock as this in a very brief review: "The Mothers meet The Velvets?"
  • Songs from the Mountain by Dirk Powell, Tim O'Brien and John Herrmann was inspired by Cold Mountain, and originally was to have been titled after it before much legal wrangling with the rights holders intervened.
  • "Bullet Time" by Tom Smith is basically The Punisher (2004) as a song. Both are about cops who lose their careers and families to the local crime bosses, and become shells of their former selves as they become homicidal vigilantes.


    Stand-Up Comedy 

    Tabletop Games 
  • Heavy Gear is essentially a Armored Trooper VOTOMS game with the setting of Fang of the Sun Dougram.
  • If there was ever a tabletop game version of Watership Down, it would be called Bunnies & Burrows.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
  • Mutants & Masterminds is the tabletop roleplaying game equivalent of the Marvel and DC universes to such a degree that fans had every character from both publishers statted out in the forums. Furthermore, while both companies tended to develop their own RPGs in the past, DC Comics released its most recent tabletop game under third edition Mutants & Masterminds rules.
  • Pathfinder is considered by many Dungeons & Dragons players to be D&D 3.75 (halfway between 3.5 and 4th Edition). It helps that it is heavily based on D&D's rule set.
    • Pathfinder is more like "the successor to D&D 3.5 in all but name" and 4 is "the successor to D&D 3.5 in name only". 4th edition is really an entirely different game that happens to share the same name (and a lot of flavor text). It's almost trivial to convert a D&D 3.5 adventure to Pathfinder rules, something that's not true of 4th Edition.
  • FATAL is... well, let's be fair. FATAL is probably the worst Berserk RPG ever made, but it's still the closest we'll ever come to a Berserk RPG.
  • The board game Thunder Road, the "ram and wreck survival game", is about driving through the desert and fighting with the other drivers. The publishers clearly wanted us to think of Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior.
  • Dungeon Lords is basically Dungeon Keeper: The Board Game.
  • In the opening to their RPGnet review of the World of Darkness ripoff Vampire: Undeath, reviewers Darren MacLennan and Wil Hutton argue that many tabletop games are, in some way, heavily inspired by properties from other media. They cite Dungeons & Dragons as owing a heavy debt to The Lord of the Rings (with treants and halflings as, respectively, ents and hobbits), the World of Darkness as inspired by the works of Anne Rice, and Underground as a stealth adaptation of Marshal Law.

  • Ever wonder what Romeo and Juliet would look like as a musical set in working-class '50s New York, with the Montagues and Capulets replaced with rival street gangs? Watch West Side Story and find out.

    Theme Parks 
  • This happens frequently with the haunted houses at Universal Studios' Halloween Horror Nights event when they don't own the property the house is based on, especially in its earlier years in the '90s and '00s. These days, they're more likely to officially license the property to make a house out of, though the rights to some may be held by other theme parks (namely Disney and Six Flags).
    • The RUN series of houses is big on this. The first one from 2001 is this to The Running Man, while the sequel house RUN: Hostile Territory from 2005 is based more on Hostel. The 2015 house RUN: Blood, Sweat, and Fears makes the Running Man influence even more blatant with its '80s retro-apocalypse setting, while also drawing inspiration from The Hunger Games (itself often seen as a YA version of The Running Man; see Literature above).
    • 2004's Horror In Wax is this to House of Wax (1953).
    • 2005's Demon Cantina is this to From Dusk Till Dawn. They eventually got a From Dusk Till Dawn house in 2014, albeit based on its TV adaptation.
    • 2008's Interstellar Terror is this to Event Horizon.
    • 2010's Legendary Truth: The Wyandot Estate is this to The Legend of Hell House.
    • 2011's The Forsaken is this to The Fog.
    • The "Body Collectors" are strongly based off of the Gentlemen from the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Hush".
    • Universal will likely never be able to use The Joker or Harley Quinn at their parks (not with Six Flags holding the rights to use DC Comics characters), but for the time being, they have Jack and his sidekick Chance, the Monster Clowns who delight in terrorizing, torturing, and killing people with sick games. Chance's 2015 redesign especially is almost a dead ringer for Harley in the Batman: Arkham Series. This became even more apparent when Chance was made the icon of the event in 2016, the same year that Suicide Squad (2016) was released, a decision that many fans believe was made in part to capitalize off of Margot Robbie's popular take on Harley Quinn in that film.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 

  • The MagiQuest simulated-adventure franchise, although much lower-tech and modest in scale, is currently the closest that fans of Niven & Barnes' Dream Park can come to savoring the fictional mega-theme park's attractions.
  • Monster High has been described as the closest fans will ever get to a Scooby-Doo and the Ghoul School franchise.
  • The Grossery Gang action figures in the Putrid Power lineup are often favorably compared to Food Fighters, an 80s action figure line that didn't have any supplemental media to back it up enough to survive longer. The comparison was pushed even further with the Bug Strike wave of action figures, which gave the characters army outfits.
  • The Transformers: BotBots line is often compared to the "Changeables" line of Happy Meal toys from McDonald's, being robots that transform from food items.

Alternative Title(s): Spiritual Licensee


Example of: